Judas, Peter, and the Meaning of Success

July 31, 2021

"We live in a world where selfishness and sin are frequently glorified and glamorized while true success is ignored."

Judas and Peter, Leonardo da Vinci, public domain

Success means different things to different people. As Christians we are called to be in the world but not of the world. But all too often we lose sight of that and measure our success by the standards of the world.

By using the standards of worldly success, the most successful of the apostles was Judas. Judas was successful in ways that most impress the world; financially and politically.

We do not always consider this, but the ministry of Jesus and his twelve apostles required financial support. This support was obtained through the generosity of wealthy donors. Judas was responsible for keeping and managing the apostolate's money. When he saw no future in following Jesus he skillfully manipulated the political forces of the day to achieve his goal.

And the greatest failure among the apostles? Peter would be a good candidate. Peter was powerless in a crisis and socially awkward. At the trial of Our Lord, Peter would not even admit to knowing Jesus. At the Transfiguration, Peter was at a loss and said the most awkward inappropriate things.

Peter did not seem to be the type of person we would want to spend any time with, certainly not in times of danger and probably not even on social occasions. But course, time had changed our opinion of both Judas and Peter.

The name “Judas” has now become synonymous with betrayal and Peter is one of the most honored names in the Church and in the world. In spite of this we continue to chase after the success of Judas, financial wealth and political power, to protect us against the failings of Peter, powerlessness and ineptness.

We live in a world where selfishness and sin are frequently glorified and glamorized while true success is ignored. The rich and famous are held up as examples and praised, but all to often they are anything but praiseworthy.

These are the illusory desires that Saint Paul speaks of. By pursuing them, by desiring them, we are ultimately robbed in the end.

True success lies on a different path, the one shown to us by Jesus.

We must put off the old self that is focused on temporal gain, so that the new self, created in God’s image may be put on. Jesus is the image of God that models for us this new person. He does not give in to the popularity of the crowd. He stays focused on His mission. He is pure self-giving. He is the example we are to follow.

And if along the way we achieve some measure of wealth or power, then it is given to us by God to further our mission.

“If riches increase, set not your heart upon them.” Ps. 62:10

We are not here to give in to the temptations of the world. We are here to be conformed to the image of God, so that only the Father’s will takes place in us.

This is the path to everlasting life that Jesus shows us.

Pax Vobiscum
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Read more at www.DeaconLawrence.org

© Lawrence Klimecki

Saint George, ©Lawrence Klimecki

Purchase fine art prints by Deacon Lawrence here.

Deacon Lawrence draws on ancient Christian tradition to create new contemporary art that seeks to connect the physical and the spiritual.. For more information on original art, prints and commissions, Please visit www.DeaconLawrence.org 

Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith


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